‘We’re not backing down now:’ Little hints, briefly, at 2023 priorities

In a runup to the 2023 legislative session, Gov. Brad Little spent much of his time Wednesday recapping the previous four years.

Speaking to the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho’s annual conference — and an audience that included most of the state’s 105 legislators — Little recounted a list of accomplishments from his first four-year term, including record tax cuts and a 56% increase in education spending.

And Little hinted at more of the same. “I want Idaho to know, we’re not backing down now.”

The ATI conference is something of an unofficial prelude to the legislative session. This year’s conference coincides with new member orientation for a record freshman legislative class; 45 House and Senate seats changed hands this year, although several of the “new” lawmakers have served in the past. The conference also coincides with the Legislature’s post-election organizational session, when lawmakers elect party leadership and receive their committee assignments.

Typically, governors don’t offer many policy details at the ATI conference — saving those announcements for the State of the State address on the first day of the legislative session. Little’s brief luncheon speech at the Boise Centre followed that formula.

Little touted many of the talking points that marked his re-election campaign, from a fivefold increase in literacy spending to a statewide growth rate that ranks No. 1 in the nation.

“You can either boo or cheer, depending on which you’d like to,” Little quipped.

Recapping his first term, Little said the state was able to thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Little also touted the results from a one-day legislative session in September, when lawmakers passed his sweeping bill to boost education spending by $410 million a year and provide $500 million in tax cuts and rebates.

In a nonbinding advisory vote in November, nearly 80% of voters endorsed the legislation.

“Idaho’s priorities are our priorities,” Little said.

When the ATI conference ends Wednesday afternoon, the focus will shift back to the Statehouse.

House and Senate Republicans will elect leadership during closed caucus meetings Wednesday evening. Democrats already held their leadership votes, choosing Sen. Melissa Wintrow of Boise to fill a vacant spot as Senate minority leader, and retaining Rep. Ilana Rubel as House minority leader.

When the organizational session gavels in Thursday morning, several key legislative spots are up for grabs — including at least 11 seats on the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, the chair and vice chair positions on the Senate Education Committee, and the vice chair’s spot on the House Education Committee.

Follow Idaho Education News Thursday for full coverage from the organizational session.

Kevin Richert

About Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television; and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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